A virtual reality game created by Australian developers is helping people with dementia and even reducing the amount of anti-psychotic drugs they need to take

Virtual reality – computer-generated simulations of a 3D image or environment that can be interacted with using special electronic equipment – is the latest buzzword in technology, particularly now that people are using it to help those affected by dementia.

A virtual reality game created by a tech developer from Alzheimer’s Australia called “Virtual Forest” is an interactive experience where users sit in front of a screen and use simple hand movements to change the scenery that they’re looking at. Some of the scenery includes butterflies fluttering through flowers, a rowboat floating around a pond or a family of ducks splashing about in the water.

When introduced to patients with dementia, it was found to significantly improve their quality of life, and lead to a reduction in medication use for their dementia symptoms.

The game is projected onto a large screen and doesn’t require headsets.

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Dr Tanya Petrovich, a tech developer with Alzheimer’s Australia, and who created the game, told ABC News Breakfast:

‘[Trials] found a 64 per cent reduction in the use of antipsychotics, so this is a fabulous thing.

‘If we can actually reduce the amount of medications that people live on, they have a much better quality of life.’

The project started off as a crowdfunding idea in 2014 and received $24,000 in pledges before it was picked up by technology groups. It uses Kinect technology, which is normally found in Xbox One consoles.

‘It had to be something that was really intuitive and easy to understand so the person can, without any instruction, understand how to play the game,’ added Dr Petrovich.

‘The park-like setting that we’ve got, with lots of trees and flowers and people engaging through actions of their hands – we know that those are the elements that would help to create this very calm interaction for people.’

Dora Spratling, whose father was one of the early users of the game, said it had made a noticeable difference to his behaviour.

‘My father’s normal demeanour on a daily basis would be one of confusion [and] misunderstanding of why he’s actually doing what he’s doing.

‘When he was conducting the forest he actually brightened up a little bit. I noticed that he perked up.’

Sources: abc.net.au and vic.fightdementia.org.au

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